No stunt: BrewDog goes big in Japan after breakthrough venture with beer-making giant

Maverick Scots beer maker BrewDog has launched a joint venture with a Japanese brewing giant as it looks to boost its overseas sales.

The agreement with Asahi Breweries will see BrewDog’s core products such as Punk IPA, Hazy Jane and Elvis Juice rolled out across Japan from this month.

The joint venture – over which BrewDog will retain a controlling interest – will be known as BrewDog Japan and is the first of its type for the Ellon-based brewer.

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While BrewDog beers are already available in limited locations across Japan, the joint venture is set to invest to grow brand awareness country-wide and to “increase significantly” the distribution network of bars and restaurants stocking the Scots firm’s products.

The joint venture – over which BrewDog will retain a controlling interest – will be known as BrewDog Japan and is the first of its type for the Ellon-based brewer.

The new venture will operate as a standalone entity with its own sales, marketing and back-office teams.

BrewDog bosses said they had explored a number of “strategic options” to accelerate the expansion of its business in the fast-growing Asian markets. The creation of a joint venture with Japan’s biggest beer maker will provide a “rapid boost” to BrewDog’s distribution capability, while retaining its independence.

James Watt, co-founder and chief executive of BrewDog, which has become one of the UK’s biggest craft brewers, aided by a string of headline-grabbing publicity stunts, said: “We’re excited to be growing our presence in Japan and, in Asahi Japan, to be doing so in partnership with one of the most prestigious names in the drinks industry.

“BrewDog’s beers are now enjoyed in over 60 countries around the world and it’s a great testament to the quality of our beers, not to mention the excellent taste of Japanese beer drinkers, that we have this opportunity to grow further in such a significant market.”

Founded in 1889 in Osaka as the Osaka Breweries, Asahi Japan is the leading brewer in the country.

The venture will focus initially on growing distribution and awareness of the BrewDog brand in Japan and in time will be able to access Asahi Japan’s “highly developed” distribution network, leveraging its position to rapidly grow BrewDog brands, in particular Punk IPA which currently accounts for 70 per cent of BrewDog volumes in Japan.

Other small batch craft beers within the BrewDog stable, plus cider and spirits, will continue to be imported by Whisk-E, BrewDog’s local partner since 2013.

The new joint venture will be run by newly appointed chief operating officer, Daisaku Okuda, who brings with him more than 30 years’ experience in the drinks industry, including nearly 20 years at Asahi Japan, most recently as general manager, spirits and liqueurs, with a sales and marketing team based in offices in central Tokyo, working closely with BrewDog’s Aberdeenshire HQ.

Okuda said: “With its reputation for high-quality craft beers, BrewDog already has an established fanbase in Japan. We’re pleased to launch the business operation in Japan to help bring great beer to consumers across the whole country.”

International sales of BrewDog have grown significantly in recent years and its beers are now available in more than 60 countries. Overseas sales more than doubled between 2017 and 2020 and, despite the pandemic, are expected to show further “significant” growth over 2021.

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